Chef Joseph George

Chef Joseph George

I’m still pondering some Thanksgiving tweaks for this year. What about a little pumpkin in the potatoes? I recently spoke with Chef Joseph George, executive chef at the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa in Acme, Michigan who shared some foodie insights as well as a recipe or two.

What three ingredients do you always keep stocked in your pantry?

At home you can always find different types of cheeses like brie, chevre and baby bell which I love eat with rustic breads from local bakeries. I also drink lots of orange juice with eggs, deli meats for sandwiches and cereals.

Your favorite meal to make or serve?

My favorite meal to make is braised short ribs. The there are several cooking techniques involved, which I love, from marinating to searing, to braising to proper cooling so the meat stays moist. You can make this dish multidimensional by pairing it up with several different types of sides.

We all have a favorite indulgence, for a chef like you it must be something spectacular?

I have a sweet tooth. When I indulge, I go for the chocolates in life. I enjoy a rich smooth chocolate infused with different flavors in a truffle or a bon bon. It is quite a treat so I love to analyze it, is it smooth, is it flavorful, is it tempered correctly and the list goes on.

What’s one of your worst cooking mistakes?

One of my worst cooking mistakes happened when I was 19 trying to force my knife through an onion. The knife was dull, slipped and I cut myself pretty bad.  Needless to say, I am a big advocate of sharp knives from then on out since most injuries occur with dull knives, not sharp ones.

There are so many great Michigan-made food products, what is your pick?

My favorite is a new one I just discovered this year and that is the honey cream line from Sleeping Bear Farms. It is a richer form of honey that they produce plain, with lemon or cherry. Great product for home and for a professional kitchen.

What do you suggest for first-timers to Grand Traverse Resort & Spa? What menu item should they make sure to try?

When staying at the hotel or a local going out to dine I highly recommend eating breakfast in Sweetwater bistro and ordering my favorite salmon Benedict. For dinner I would go right to the top of the tower in Aerie Restaurant and Lounge to try the Tuna Tartaki appetizer followed by the Maytag Encrusted Filet.

Yield:  6 servings

Spiced Sirloin:
6 Sirloin Steaks
1 c. quatre espice – (equal parts ground: ginger, cinnamon, white pepper, nutmeg, clove)
2 T. bacon fat

Pat dry all steaks.  Season steaks with salt, rub generously with quatre espice.  In a large sauté pan, sear both sides of steaks in bacon fat until dark brown.  Roast in oven on roasting rack for 10-12 minutes (medium steak), more or less for different temperatures.

Pumpkin Potato Gratin:

1 quart heavy cream
1 16oz. can pumpkin puree
8 peeled Idaho potatoes
1 T. nutmeg mixed with 1 T. cinnamon
Salt and pepper
1 pound grated parmesan Reggiano

Grease a 9×13 baking pan.  In a small container, mix pumpkin puree, cream and cinnamon mixture.  On a mandolin, slice potatoes very thin, layer potato, cream mixture, salt and pepper then parmesan.  Continue again until pan is full to the top.  Bake covered at 350 degrees for 45 minutes (or until soft all the way through), bake uncovered for an additional 10 minutes until golden brown.  Let rest at room temperature for 15 minutes before cutting.

Mushroom Braised Swiss Chard:

8 stalks Swiss chard – julienned
4 pints button mushrooms – sliced
3 peeled shallots – diced
1 bunch fresh thyme
1 head garlic cut in half
Salt and pepper
12 oz. white wine
½ pound butter
Juice of 2 lemons

In a medium rondo pan, place mushrooms, shallots, thyme, garlic, wine, butter and lemon cook on medium heat covered for approx. 15 minutes.  The mushrooms should release a good amount of liquid, at this time, add the Swiss chard and simmer for 5-7 minutes covered.  Strain and serve.

Cut potato gratin into squares, place over braised Swiss chard/mushroom mixture.  Slice sirloin next to potatoes, cover again with Swiss chard and more mushrooms.  Garnish with fried onions, shaved Reggiano or fresh vegetables.

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